Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Warmaster Ancients test game

To my great delight I recently managed to pick up a copy of the Warmaster Ancients rules from wargame buddy John, who was selling off a few bits and pieces.  I'd been wanting to get a hold of this set for ages but  kept getting sidetracked with other things and other purchases (as I tend to do...), but I have it now and decided to test it out on Sun/Mon on the big table at school.

I set up a 1000 point Roman/Carthaginian game, set somewhere in Spain, with a hill and a couple of small groves for terrain.

I didn't go overboard with pre-studying the rules; I just set up as I saw fit and then played through a few turns solo to see how things would go.  Veteran players will no doubt see some egregious errors in my deployment schemes here; everyone else will be able to get a giggle at the base of velites who didn't know whether they were coming or going...

Things kicked off with a determined Roman advance in the center, aiming to get to grips before the Carthaginians could get too much done on the flanks.  Unfortunately, command rolls prevented much cohesion, and while the central block advanced without problems the flanks trod forward rather more gingerly.

Carthage was able to secure the copses on the right and infiltrate light infantry into positions suitable for harassing the flanks of the Roman infantry advance.

The centre, meantime, shortened their lines to meet the more compact Roman formation.

Third turn in things were still progressing very slowly, mainly due to horrific command rolls.  The Spanish light infantry gained the hill, but a command blunder saw the Numidians impetuously charge a unit of velites.  In the ensuing scrum they were pushed back by a hail of javelins before getting to grips properly, but in thsie own shooting phase forced the Romans to scurry back to safety behind their heavy cavalry. 

I thought the interactions worked well.

The skirmishers gain the hill.

Roman advance
Numidian stand off...
As time was running out I hurriedly - and with utter disregard for the rules - drew the sides together to test out how melee combat worked.  It was bloody, but seemed to work OK.

So, points to note:

1) Skirmishers are quite effective in that they are able to drive back would-be attackers and disrupt the line.  I think these will be fun to use in a proper game.  Horse will be needed to counter their evade ability, and light horse especially.

2) It's a lot harder to move units than I'm used to from games such as Lost Battles.  The threat of imminent command failure makes you weigh up priorities.  While poor command dice are very bad, they can turn good very quickly, so there will be big swings in fortune that will always offer a chance to come back from all but the very worst positions.

3) Hand-to-hand combat looks to be bloody.  Keeping reserves on hand and finding the right way to get them into the battle line will likely be key elements in game play.

4) I like how the table looks.  The lines are nice and clean, but have a shape to them that I miss when using the zones in Lost Battles.

All up, I'm very pleased.  I think these will be a fun set of rules and there is plenty of potential to add in extra rules here and there as well.  I can see some similarities to Commands and Colors: Ancients (particularly in the way skirmishers operate, and the way that retreats and pursuits work), and think it will likely reward similar skills.

Now the only problem will be to find someone prepared to play it with me!


  1. Nice photos, and very nice figures too!

  2. I have WMA for many years,and finally played it a few years ago with a mate - 600 points on 4'x5' and loosely based on the Battle of Granicus. (yes, I occasionally do play on a table lager than 2'x2'!) I had always wanted to play it and was not disappointed when I did. It does give a good ancient battle feel to it. I have not played it since and have subsequently acquired Hail Caesar. The majority opinion, with only some dissension is that HC is elegantly better. I have not played HC yet so cannot tell, but just by reading it looks better. One of the few things about WMA was the bucket of dice, especially cavalry charging. There is not so much in HC.

    Thanks for the post. It is always nice to feel less lonely and have someone post something that you agree with entirely :-)

    I also have C and C Ancients, but not played that yet either. It is on my list to play, and the list is getting smaller so hopefully in the next year or two...or three.

  3. Thanks, gents!

    Phil - thanks for your comment. Going by how nice your own miniatures are it's a fine compliment indeed :)

    Shaun - it's always nice to have someone agree with me - it's such a rare thing ;-) I've heard similar things to you, and am also looking forward to giving HC a crack, but WMA is giving me a nice 'hmmm, possibilities' feel that HC has not so far from my read-throughs and a short playtest I did a while back. Anyway, we'll see how it goes!

    I can recommend C and C - it takes a wee bit of getting used to but makes for an entertaining solo game as well as an excellent competitive one, I find. I must do a post on its solo aspects at some stage now that I think of it...


  4. The updates for Warmaster Ancients really make the game work, see

    might not stay around for long, so be aware. But Google them if the above link is not working.

    Fixes skirmishers and shooting.

    Frontal combat can be bloody, so you are best off hitting enemy flanks. Good armour saves for assault troops can work. Cavalry attacks on flanks can be lethal but they tend to cost mega points.

    As to Hail Caesar, WMA currently has more choice of army lists. So sticking with WMA myself.

  5. Oh should also say very nice pics, makes the game very clear.

  6. Thanks very much, VVV! I'll get those ASAP :)

    As I say, I have Hail Caesar, but from my rulebook readings WMA seems a little more appealing and perhaps more solo friendly as well.

    Time will tell, no doubt!



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